What are my reflections on CHE after ten years?

Michael Lerner
President of Commonweal and co-founder and vice-chair of CHE

I’m grateful.

  • Grateful that science is our shared language.
  • Grateful that science progresses through dialogue.
  • Grateful that dialogue requires mutual respect.

“Science & Civility” is CHE’s core value. We practice it every day.

“If CHE didn’t exist, we’d have to invent it,” a friend recently said. CHE actually invented itself. We co-created this global community of over 4,000 in over forty countries through our work together. We began with forty friends, gathered at San Francisco Medical Society and Commonweal, committed to exploring how the environment is affecting our health and the health of our children. Now our partnership has multiplied over one hundred fold. Leading scientists, physicians, health practitioners, patient advocates, environmental health advocates, foundation officers, government officials, and concerned world citizens make CHE what it is.

CHE Partners believe in the precautionary principle. We believe environmental health science must guide the policies and practices that safeguard human life. But this shared ethic is different from advocacy of specific campaigns. We leave campaign advocacy to others. What CHE stands for is civil dialogue on emerging science and research methodologies that explore the multiple environmental factors that can impact health across our lifespan.

 CHE Partners have moved understanding of environmental health sciences forward in cancer, learning and developmental disabilities, autism, infertility and pregnancy compromise, Parkinson’s Disease and other neurodegerative conditions, obesity and diabetes, and other health end points. We’ve contributed to science dialogue on EMFs.  We are exploring the cumulative impact of multiple stressors, the ecological paradigm of health (or complexity model), climate change, integrative medicine and environmental health. We are offering environmental health trainings for a growing community of patient advocates and health professionals. We continue to develop CHE’s widely respected database.

I believe CHE is in its youth. I believe CHE’s full power and promise lie ahead. While we have contributed significantly to shaping public and professional awareness of the impact of the environment on health, the decisive shift in human consciousness—the understanding of the fundamental oneness of the web of life—still lies before us.

A science-based unified understanding of life will mark the beginning of the next great stage in human civilization. One can see this unified theory taking shape with many different names in many different disciplines. Call it social neuroscience, conservation biology, cumulative impact, the ecological paradigm of health, complexity model, biopsychosocial research, integrative health, psychoneuroimmunology or whatever you choose, the underlying premise is that the biosphere is ultimately a single whole. It is fundamentally characteristic of emerging fields of science that the nomenclature will be debated and contested for many years. That is a sign of the vitality and health of the field.

Because humanity is so diverse, science must be our common language in the exploration of this field. The more we understand the interconnectedness of living systems, the more precious their integrity becomes. The more precious their integrity, the more compelling the preservation of life’s web will be for us.

CHE is an adventure. CHE is a delight. CHE is an ever-diversifying community. CHE is a state of mind. CHE is a promise we make to our children, to coyotes, to parrots, to dolphins, and to every being who still holds wildness sacred inside them. So I’m grateful. I’m grateful to be part of CHE.


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